The Greatest Player in NBA History: Why Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Deserves the Title

Mike AikinsContributor IIDecember 27, 2010

LOS ANGELES - 1987:  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar #33 of the Los Angeles Lakers holds the ball in the post during an NBA game against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles, California in 1987. (Photo by: Mike Powell/Getty Images)
Mike Powell/Getty Images

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar deserves the title of being the greatest player to ever play the game of basketball in my opinion for one reason alone: his implementation and later perfection of the sky hook shot. 

No other player in the history of the game has come close to developing a shot that is more lethal and more effective in crunch-time situations, than the Sky hook shot.  And no other offensive weapon was more reliable when it was needed the most. 

Furthermore, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's sky hook shot has not been duplicated like the dunk or the finger roll have been, and this puts Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in a class all by himself. 

Because Kareem could use the sky hook with equal effectiveness with either his right or his left hand, and from any distance from the basket, it has basically transcended any element of the game of basketball that came after it. 

Now, top this all off with the fact that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored more points (38,387) and had greater longevity in a career that spanned over 21 seasons, makes it hard to find a better argument.  Karl Malone's 36,928 points and Michael Jordan's 32,292 points keeps one of those players (Jordan) in the conversation for the all-time best. 

But Kareem's sky hook was so devastating, opposing coaches and players had no other choice but to poke him in the eyes to try to stop it.  This is when Kareem had to bring out the goggles.  So, for you youngsters out there who were born in the '90s and later, contrary to popular belief, it was not Rip Hamilton or A'mare Stoudemaire that were the first to sport something protective over their faces during a game.

It was the big fella, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, formerly Lou Alcindor, a collegiate phenomenon at UCLA and the greatest thing to every come out of the New York City since the subway was invented.

Critics will argue that it is Shaquille O'Neal's power dunking ability that makes him one of the most dominating players to ever play the center position, and that he is better than Kareem.  Of course, Michael Jordan's name will come up in the conversation because he won championships more recently than Kareem did, and also because he had a nickname and marketing campaign that spanned world-wide. 

No one can argue that Jordan's "Air Jordan" logo with him flying through the air with both legs spread-eagle and tongue stuck-out was literally before its time, and didn't have an enormous impact on the game. Some even take it a step further arguing that Jordan's logo should replace the current NBA logo that consists of the great Jerry West driving to the basket. 

This will always keep Jordan in the conversation but it is not enough to overtake Kareem's Sky hook shot and his scoring record. 

Then there's the argument for Wilt Chamberlain, arguably the most powerful and largest force to ever play the game before Darryl Dawkins and Shaquille O'Neal became household names for dunking the basketball with extreme force.  Chamberlain also had a finesse game, with a finger roll that he used when the name finger roll hadn't been created yet. 

But how can anyone else argue that any other player was better than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when he perfected a sky hook shot that has often been imitated, but has never been duplicated?  The fact of the matter is, no one can.  This is why Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has to be crowned the best of all-time. 

Younger generation basketball enthusiasts will argue that another current Laker, Kobe Bryant, is the greatest player of all-time or definitely will be when his career is over since he is still playing at a very high level and continues to add to his future legacy and his mark upon the game. 

No one can argue that Kobe's body of work doesn't deserve to be mentioned in this conversation, but Kobe hasn't created a shot or a move that no one else can do. 

Basketball inventions like George Gervin's finger roll, Darryl Dawkins' backboard-shattering slam dunks, prolific shooting accuracy from behind the three-point Line, the crossover dribble, and Dr. J's dunk from the free-throw line, have all been duplicated and perfected by another player.

But these feats are still remarkable, and all command the attention of milestones that will forever be acknowledged for changing the game of basketball. And the players who perfected them definitely deserve consideration as some of the greatest players. 

But all of these pale in comparison to Kareem's sky hook, its' impact on the game, and his scoring record.  If someone else comes along in the near future that can shoot the sky hook with equal proficiency using both hands, and can dethrone Kareem, Karl and Michael in scoring, then they would deserve to be mentioned as one of the greatest players of all-time. But think about what has to happen for that to become a reality. 

People, I wouldn't spend too much time trying to come up with a better argument, because you are wasting your time.  The greatest player of all-time in the NBA is arguably the NBA's greatest scorer.  

Since basketball games are won by the team that scores the most points, no one can argue against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar because he is currently the leading scorer in NBA history, played 21 competitive years in the NBA, and had arguably the most prolific offensive scoring weapon ever created for basketball. 


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.